Very clever, but not the best way to stop

As the last article on Cornering seemed to be well recieved by the readership time now to cover
Braking and see what happens as we move from regular slowing and stopping to blind panic chaos
when the unexpected occurs.

I think I can safely assume that ALL of us who enjoy 2 wheels either for sport or pleasure have at
some time had a “braking incident” and as we go through the paragraphs I may well throw a few of
my braking anecdotes in for amusement value.

Starting with something that is all power and NO brakes we have the Speedway motorcycle that was
highly popular in the UK both pre and post war even rivaling football as the No1 spectator sport during
its big hey days.

No gears or left footrest, no suspension …. and NO Brakes !!

A quick look at a speedway bike shows No brakes, no gears, and only a single right side footrest.
These single geared machines can hit 60-80 on the straights and their only form of stopping is
engine braking, or compression, and finally either lay it down or both feet !

Like NASCAR we only go LEFT

What we would now consider vintage iron or the Brit bikes of the 50’s and 60’s all had drum brakes
and the rear brake pedal on the LEFT. These brakes, for the sake of better name, were not good and especially on my Bonneville would fade with alarming consequences.

Happy memories of the Bonneville in my colors…… not so happy mems
of the “fading” brakes !!!

With the flooding of the market with Jap bikes in the 60’s and 70’s and the decline of the British
motorcycle industry we now found our oriental friends had moved the rear brake pedal on to the right
side. I can remember taking a Yam on a test ride and having to perform a quick stop when a
pedestrian stepped in front of me…….. the standard reaction of applying front and rear was intuitive
but the screaming from the engine and sideways wheel hopping as the transmission was plunged
from 4th almost directly into 1st was quite alarming to yours truly!

From about 1975 even our Spanish Trials bikes finally changed over to right hand rear brakes and
since then brakes have been universally accepted that its all on the RIGHT…….. funny that our nearest species, the bicycle, has them in the other hands ?

Evolving from the drum to the disc we also see the introduction of the hydraulic reservoir on the
handlebars and the arrival of the multi position lever.

As nearly all the weight of a bike and its load are behind the front wheel the machine is designed to
have about 70% of its stopping power delivered from the front brake and the last 30% coming from
the rear as its behind all that weight and a bit like the bolting horse and the closing of the stable door.
A quick look at my Rothmans 929RR shows the differences of the amount of braking available.

The 70/30 disc ratio. When braking one of these quickly from high speed
keep your arms straight and avoid the rear wheel lifting, so ease off on
the front when you can

Now consider this……… think of our braking ritual as a wheelbarrow!…… all of our load is behind the
one and only wheel and if the tire is anything other than at the correct pressure it will be difficult to
push as the softer, or flat tire creates a bigger contact patch, more traction or friction. To get an idea
of how this is for a rear wheel turn round and now drag the same load and you will find it a lot easier.

“A Barrow load of Monkeys”….with a soft tire its hard to push like our
front wheel with full braking…. turn round and pull it and you will get the
idea of what the rear wheel is providing

That hopefully explains the differences of forces and why we have the 70/30 set up to stop a
motorcycle. You may have other fancy do-dads such as Intregrated, Linked, or ABS systems fitted to
your machine but as a general rule you should ride and stop the bike using the same technique
irrespective of what is fitted.

I once had a “moment” at a set of level crossing railroad tracks on my way to school riding my Tiger
Cub. I was following a low loader which had 8 tires on the last axle and was powered by air brakes.
The noise of the air plus I could see rods actuating things fascinated me and as we crawled nearer
and nearer to the tracks at 5 mph I failed to register the last HISSSSS and now found my front wheel hopelessly jammed in amongst these giant tires. Struggle as I might I couldn’t get my wheel to budge
and when the gates opened and everybody set off I was forced to watch my bike ascend into the
heavens until the sump shield hit the tires and my front wheel came free with the bike in the near
vertical. The dumbness of youth!!

During the MSF Basic Rider Course the students are told to brake using all four fingers of the right
hand and only later if they come back for further courses do we go into 3 and 2 finger braking.
Valentino is a 3 finger man!

4 finger braking as taught on the MSF Basic Rider Course

We also try to get away from the “truck driver boot” operating the rear brake but sometimes this isn’t
easy if the student comes armed with some hideous deep sea diver’s boot he has just picked up from
his Hardley Ableson dealer!

The students don’t usually have too much of a problem with the early braking exercises simulating a
set of traffic lights and a mandatory stop. The exercise and procedure is always the same, 15-20 mph
in second gear. As you pass the first set of cones, clutch, downshift, and BOTH brakes coming to a
stop at the second set of cones.

A demo for the students on the Braking Chute

Now we move onto Stopping Quickly, rather than call it emergency braking, and nothing really
changes in terms of the technique other than to explain the shortest stop is achieved using maximum braking from both wheels without locking up either. Should you lock a rear wheel then ride it out. If you
are unlucky to lock the front wheel release immediately. Nice idea, but experience would say
otherwise as people who grab at the front brake tend to continue with this vise like grip all the way into
the low side crash. Perhaps the best way to explain the “how to” is to remember the person who
shook your hand and then went on to squeeze your fingers until they hurt.  Yes, its purely progressive
and can be increased as you feel the bike begining to slow down. Another way to practice this is to
take an orange and progressively squeeze it until it bursts!

The errors witnessed in this exercise are worth passing on as many are a direct result of not having
the bike set up for YOU. Your controls of brake and clutch should be an extension of your forearms
and your handlebars should be set in a position where your shoulder blades are still in their sockets.
Levers should be appropriate for the span of your hand and on many machines are simply adjusted
to put them comfortably within reach, or you can buy aftermarket styles of doglegs to bring them closer
to the bars. Looking at many members of “that” fraternity I can only assume they never changed
anything on their badly assembled ergonomic slums as they all have trouble reaching the bars and
those absurb forward controls…… but I guess they are happy as they are now BIKERS!!

Sorry, but the posture is ALL wrong! Your back is arched, the controls
are too far forward and all the body weight is going through the tail bone
on the less than comfortable seat

“We don’t go fast enough to need a helmet” What I want to know is how
do you do a slow speed turn if your arms are already at max extension ?

Better built from Japan, but still an ergonomic slum !

While on the subject of Milwaukee Madness another of my pet hates are highway pegs which I
honestly believe should be outlawed, banned and even subject to a citation and large fine for anyone
found using them. Imagine what would happen if you had your car on cruise control and both feet out
of the windows? Sounds ridiculous but its no different than riding a bike with your legs straight and
set out 3 feet apart…… and nowhere near two of your primary controls namely, the rear brake and the shifter!!!!…….. and please don’t tell me that in an emergency you can get your feet back on the correct
pegs and controls in time to avoid the upcoming accident. Sorry boys but these things are BLOODY Dangerous!

NO, NO, a thousand times NO !!!!

Back to some of those common errors the first one is as the student attempts to squeeze the front
brake he opens the throttle. This can be caused by several things but before we cover them while you
are reading this try the following…… stretch out your right arm and imagine you are holding the
twistgrip and now squeeze the imaginary front brake with all four fingers and note what happens. As
the tendons in the back of your hand contract your hand rotates up and back and your thumb moves involuntarily to the right. The same will be true if the lever is positioned too low and the student has
to reach down for it and also someone with a small span may find they too open the throttle when
they get to their best leverage. The first correction is relocating the position of the lever and phase two
for the smaller hand will be a different style of lever.

You can imagine this type of incident  can often result in dire consequences especially if the
student panics and releases the clutch ! More often than not the sweat soaked glove can be
repostioned on the grip, the lever can be repositioned, and the reach and squeeze portion can be
slowed down and the student rebriefed that distance is NOT the objective but merely the technique.

Of course despite all the briefings we DO see the GRAB with its resultant low side crash, plenty of
locked rear wheels and many forgetting the downshift completely. We DO stress that just like getting
to Carnegie Hall the only way to get this discipline down to instinctive is, after graduating the course,
spend several hours practicing this aspect in empty parking lots on a Sunday morning.

Following on from all this I advise the 2 finger braking for the following reasons;

1. With 2 finger braking the remaining fingers and thumb can hold the throttle steady thereby
preventing the palm and tendons opening the throttle.

2. The use of 2 fingers rather than 4 allows more finesse and in the event of locking the front you
are more likely to be able to release the pressure.

2 fingers to brake, 2 fingers and thumb to maintain throttle control

On the Advanced Rider and Experienced Rider courses we do see these problems manifest
themselves again as more often than not Experienced riders don’t get into situations where hard
braking is required and are therefore not used to operating the controls for maximum braking and
often have to be “reschooled” in the art or introduced to 2 finger braking if they have never used it in
the past.

Finally we cover braking quickly in a turn and here the golden rule for the novice is quite clear DON’T !
The first thing to do is stop the turn, easily done from our premise of “the bike goes where you look”
so stop looking through the turn, look at something ahead with vertical extent and with the bike
upright and handlebars square complete the drill in a straight line.

Should you be forced to swerve then do NOT touch the brakes under any circumstances during the
swerve or you will have a meeting of the asphalt kind ! The reason for this is as you change directions
the forks will extend as the weight lightens but….. if there is any braking pressure applied while the
forks are extended on the recompression as the second direction is required the wheel will lock and
slide away into another low side crash.

…..and now for TONY’S TIP……….

If you find yourself constantly having to “reset” going around a bend on your bike  or you are driving
in a car with someone who is forever turning the steering wheel like a 1940’s movie here is a way to
correct both. Find a road with some suitable sweeping bends and first drive through them with your
hands in the 10 to 2 position with your thumbs extended. Look about 20 feet ahead of the hood and
see what happens…. Your eyes will take in the road center line and edge markings and because our
brain (the computer) has no other information it will continually be feeding input commands to your
hands to position the car equidistantly between the two lines…. this will make for a very rough drive
for you and your passenger.  Now drive the same bends at the same speed only this time trying to
keep your eyes on the horizon …….. note what your thumbs are doing in your peripheral vision and
you will see they hardly move and everything is much smoother.

For the Trials riding fraternity most of our braking is under the watchful eye of the checker or observer
and two different techniques are used between modern and vintage trials. All modern day trials
machines have hydraulic brakes and clutches and are designed to be ridden using a single digit on
each control. Modern day rules permit a “Stop” in balance without loss of marks so in sections where
a turn is so tight it cannot be ridden in a single flowing manoeuvre the advanced skill of a “nose
wheelie” followed by flicking the rear end onto the new line is now an essential skill.

1 finger brake and clutch operation into a nose stoppie and this Expert
rider can now flick the rear round onto his desired line 

With a Vintage machine of the 60’s which has drum brakes and may well be 100 lbs heavier this is
not normally an option as our rules are “no stop”. We are looking for finessed braking on treacherous
terrain using engine braking through our huge flywheels, sometimes a decompressor to stop the
rear wheel locking and stalling the motor, and 2 finger braking on the front to ensure forward
movement, albeit at ultra slow speeds.

Steep and treacherous, 3 finger braking releasing to 2 for the slippery
pine needles…… and no clutch

Engine braking finessed with 2 finger front only on this steep but grippy

………and what went wrong here? was there any way to prevent this? ……. offer your opinions and I’ll
give you my views.


Motorcycling spoken here

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Last night with the benefits of a few pints of stout I spent an hour or so trying to explain to a Harley Wannabee how to ride corners on our superb Colorado bendy roads and what techniques I use and
a few extra arrows in “my” quiver to get out of some of the common everyday unexpected situations.

Back to some very basics my student didn’t really have much understanding of terms, let alone
techniques, so it was right back to the beginning to explain the differences between a car and a bike.
Things like “the racing line”, “out wide, in close, out wide”, “traction”, braking with lean angle”, and then
onto “counter weight” and “counter steer” never seemed to trigger any lights on the Christmas tree, so
clearly as my student had zero understanding the conversation was terminated and I signed him up
as an “Organ Donor!”

As an MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) Instructor and Motorcycle MVD Examiner perhaps this little
talk was enough ammo for me to write an article on the subject. Personally I enjoy all forms of
motorcycling with trials riding being my No 1, and apart from the satisfaction of a “good” ride through
a section little else comes close to the joys or riding bends at speed on the right line with good

Taking our beginner on the Basic Rider Course (BRC) we work on a series of building blocks moving
on from “starting and stopping” while exploring the mysteries of the clutch and the “friction zone” into a
few 90 degree slow speed turns and then through changing gears up and down and coming to a stop.
By the time we get to Exercise 7  we now talk big time about cornering as the student has already
subconsiously been doing many of the basics we haven’t yet discussed including an introduction to
“counterweight” while doing the handlebar type turns at slow speed.

At exercise 7 we now introduce 2 x 180 degree turns around an oval. The basic cornering premise
of SLOW, LOOK, PRESS, and ROLL is repeated over and over again and I normally walk them around
the turn stating where I’m looking and how it will be coming to the “apex” where we can start applying
the power and start to feel the joys of the bike accelerating while still leaned over and cornering.

Fellow Instructor and good friend, Dean Heath, coaches Ex 7

Most common mistakes are slowing up too much thereby not allowing the bike to lean, not looking
and turning the head to see the exit or end of the turn and a fascination with the white curved line,
which results in a head down posture looking 10 feet or so ahead of the machine. I usually refer to this as “having a love affair with the front tire”…….. of course if you do this, as many do, then you can’t see
the exit of the turn, nor will you know where the apex is……. so you can never start the acceleration.
How can I get the student to correct all these errors?

Looks like I have the power coming on at the apex

Perhaps the easiest way I have found is to relate the whole experience to a computer and a keyboard.
Our Eyes are the Keyboard and our Brain is the Computer. So putting that all back in our student’s
concept the corner becomes more of an automatic function rather than having to think of “things to do”.
From Exercise 1 we have stressed the fact that  “The Bike goes where You Look” so now cornering
becomes easier as all we need to do is SLOW in a straight line, LOOK at the exit point, or cone
marking the end of the 180…….AND LOOK AT NOTHING ELSE!……… and now wait for the apex and
bring on the power. Using your eyes as the keyboard you are looking at the exit point and your brain (computer) will translate the keyboard (eyes) information into physical action such as body weight
and lean angle to get to the desired point that you are looking at.

Our training course continues with other variations on a theme and we cover other turns that are not
all perfect 90’s and 180’s but of course this is a RANGE situation and not the open road with cambers,
piles of grit and debris and other hazards. We talk about braking in a turn, late apexing and setting the suspension as we enter the curve. We can of course pick up any dangerous habits and one that
usually gets to me is the way some people ride with “toe down” and instep on the rest!  If you would
really LIKE a broken ankle then this is perhaps the easiest way to get one!!!

Ouch !

When braking and shifting is complete move your feet back to the ball of
the foot in contact with the peg

A bit extreme here but you get the idea

One of our female Instructors shows how

Looking at some blind 90 style turns it must be immediately obvious that a right hander is the MORE dangerous in many respects as it will take longer for the full corner to reveal itself and show the apex
and any hidden problems, plus any serious misjudgement and early throttle application will result in
running wide into oncoming traffic!

Let’s think of our left hander first, strangely everything we do competition wise in the Northern
hemisphere goes left handed ! All athletic running tracks are left handers, all dog racing, all horse
racing is conducted on left hand tracks and all forms of motor sport such as speedway/longtrack,
velodrome cycle racing and the dreaded Nascar all go around anti clockwise. Now its not because
animals and ourselves have shorter left legs it just feels more natural either because of coriolous or
the Earth’s rotation. Of course our two premier motorsport competitions of Formula 1 and Moto-GP
are both run on right hand circuits.

Any hoooo, so other than British readers, our standard left hander allows us to see further into the
bend and allows us to see the apex earlier, and that perhaps is where it usually goes “pear shaped”
for the novice road rider. Using our standard “out wide, in close, out wide” line all goes well until
either our novice rider gets cocky and overconfident and either finds himself going in too fast or
accelerating too early prior to the apex and running wide.

The standard Out Wide, In Close, Out Wide line through a corner

Common mistakes of only a minor nature can often result in a very unpleasant crash caused by my
previous statements leading up to PANIC!!!  Our rider in the picture may well ride the corner safely but inexperience and another 5-10 mph may cause PANIC and invariably results in the following………

It looks good but will he panic ?

………. the rider sees the guard rail coming and thinks he won’t make it………. first reaction, he closes
the throttle,……… what WAS a balanced equation of forces now changes with the power reduction and
weight comes forward onto the front wheel……… as the power has gone he cannot hold the lean angle
so the bike begins to stand up……….and its radius of turn is MUCH wider than before…….. he looks
directly ahead…….. and yes, the bike goes where you look……… so all that happens now is that he hits
the guard rail 20 feet earlier than he first predicted !!!!

Now lets see what happens with the right hander. In the diagram we have 3 choices of line, Green
the standard OW, IC, OW, then the Blue, early turn in, curb hugger slower line, and finally the delayed
turn in Pale Blue which allows a faster initial entry braking in a straight line to a later turn in point which
gives a delayed apex and allows the bike to be turning less, and therefore more upright with better
traction as we apply the power.

Clearly our rider has either misjudged the turn or elected to ride the curb hugger Blue. This will be the
slower of the three but means from this position you will be the last to see any upcoming road hazards
which in mountain riding could easily be a fall of rock or an Elk spectator!

Not the best line through the corner

If you ride this inside line then you had better be sure that your speed allows for the turn as errors
here invariably result in “low side” crashes caused by panic front braking. The following pictures
illustrate that point !

Too fast up that “curb hugger” line and a big handful of front brake while
attempting to lean further……… result…. loss of front wheel traction and an
impending low side crash

Be interesting to know how the sleeveless shirt gave protection from the
gravel rash ?

With some of the Don’ts evident as the rider gets more experienced then I would suggest the delayed
apex as being overall the way to go but DO have the other lines up your sleeve as nearly every corner
is different and may need to be approached in a slightly different way.

Now lets take our knowledge out into some real world situations and what better to illustrate this
section than some helmet cam pictures (courtesy Brenda) from last years bendy ride north of
Calistoga in CA.

From the “TD” textbook another blind right hander, stay out close to the center line, brake in a straight
line, start the turn in later and then just crack the throttle to stabilise the suspension…….. as the corner unfolds “power on the diesel John” as we hit the apex……… here is how the real thing looks on a
similar bend.

Nicely Out Wide near the center line and now turning in for my delayed
apex somewhere about center photo

….. and now a classic left hander from the textbook followed by the real thing.

Just about at the delayed apex and I can see all the bend as the power
comes on

A couple of other turns where I will discuss what I’m doing and why

Easing right for my turn in point up by the single clump of dead grass

A right, left sequence with a delayed apex behind the forked tree which
should hold me Out Wide for the left hander turn in point

On day 2 of the BRC our students see the full use of “Counterweight” as they negotiate some tight
turns inside a box on the range. We of course as trials riders seldom think of counterweight as it is
part of just about every section and a skill prerequisite of the sport. Simple enough task, best
described as having the weight to the outside of the turn with a straight inside arm. If you are doing
this sitting on the bike as most road riders will be then use the “Shift your Bum” maxim and like a
horse rider rise to the trot and position your bum to the outside of the turn and this will in turn force
your inside arm straight. If this arm is not straight and your upper body is not to the outside then when
you come to turn the bars your elbow will hit you in the chest!

Classic “counterweight” with straightish inside arm

Continuing with posture, and I’ve already discussed foot position, road riding has moved on a little as
we have seen many different styles from our road racing heros. In an ideal world the rider’s body
should be nearly perpendicular to the machine and road racing greats of the past maintained this style without the need for leaping about all over the bike with knees out and elbows wide spread,
Geoff Duke, Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini were always very neatly tucked inside the fairing
wheras today’s experts are elbows everywhere,  Ben Spies, and the Doctor Valentino who has started
trailing a leg in the breeze prior to his turn in point a bit like a praying mantis.

Following on from the Counterweight exercise we now move into Countersteer which can go straight
over many student’s heads and fall into the too difficult box. So what is this magic countersteer you
speak of ? Well taking our students over to a stationary bike I explain that I want them to press Left and
the bike will go Left !……… they of course accept it without thinking so……… with them mounted up, dead engine I now ask
“If you press on the left handgrip which way does the wheel go ?” ……..”Right, they all say”   ………
“OK but I’ve just told you press left go left…… how is that going to work?”…….. NO answer!

The best explanation is that at about 20 mph or so the wheel, due to its spinning speed, becomes a gyroscope and if you start applying forces to a gyro it doesn’t like it and will oppose the forces in an
opposite sense. So with our spinning front wheel we apply an athwartship force by pressing on the
bars which of course is directly connected to the axle……. so pressing left will force the wheel to start
a turn to the right but being a gyro it doesn’t like it and it topples causing the wheel to flop left initiating
the turn. Now as I tell them, “You can trust me, I’m a Doctor”…… if you don’t believe me cast your mind
back to when you were a kid and for some reason you took a wheel out of your bicycle and for some inexplicable reason you held the wheel by the spindle while one of your friends spun the wheel. At
some stage you probably tried to move your hands and felt the wild animal in your fingers trying to
break free. Don’t believe me? ….. go and try it!

Well the doubting Thomas’s are now brought to the end of the range as the other Instructor rides
directly towards them for the demo…… they are told to observe the base of the front wheel ….. this is
what they will see.

Some riders use this technique all the time to initiate turns, personally I don’t, as I prefer to use body
weight as the primary method to initiate the turn and I then keep the countersteer up my sleeve to
correct any errors of judgement that I may have made with putting power on too early or finding myself running wide on the corner exit. Also very useful if you are riding a bike that won’t steer, has a long wheelbase, was made in Milwaukee, and has precious little suspension. Use the countersteer and
the bike will increase lean angle and to keep the equation of forces balanced you will most likely need
a little more power or throttle.

……..and now, finally, for those who didn’t do the course, ignored all my comments, thought I was
talking through the proverbial, here is a way of learning the hard way using the MASTERCARD

Evil handling machine reminiscent of the 50’s with poor steering and low ground clearance, $25,000

Collection of badly fitting riding gear from the same manufacturer       $1000+

The chance to meet NEW friends on the mountain bends………………..….……..

.………. PRICELESS !!


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  • 4/19/2011 11:46 AM Jose wrote:
    Just wanted to add: For turns and cornering, see under 250. The less weight, the better the cornering; this goes double when it comes to wheelbase.. shorter wheelbase, quicker to flick. Thanks for all the Trials Tips.
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Here we are in March already and I haven’t had a swing at a kickstarter since last September! I did
look in the workshop but with snow on the ground thats as far as that got. With Buckeye behind us and
no rides there I still haven’t made a decision on what to contest this year. My options seem somewhat
limited as I can only do 6 rounds out of the required 7 unless there is a major change in finances.

Maybe this year ?

Currently its looking like the 2 day at Turkey Rock in May and then the wait for the 3 day at Casper in September. Might just get to Steamboat this year for the Regional event and then finish off with the 1
day at Milliken. All other venues are too far away and with the ridiculous rise in fuel prices, for no valid
reason, Donner and Diamond Don’s are also discarded due to distance and cost. All a far cry from
2008 when I rode 15 Ahrma events, a few regionals and the CAT series in AZ. 6 rides in a year ?
Might be time to hang up the boots for the last time?

On a slightly brighter note, I would like to run a Vintage Trials School up here in Dolores culminating
with a 2 day National to replace some of the more worthless events that still hold National status.
Once again the Florida event has just been run with only 15 riders! All the whining, moaning and
general dissent that there are not enough East Coast events …….. and when they do have one only a
handful turn up. Well at least they all get 20 Championship points !!!

Back to that “proposed” Trials School ? Well, there is plenty of trials suitable land and it is owned by
the town and BLM. I’m sure the Town Manager would give his blessing and the local Sherrifs might be persuaded to let us use a road to the site without bikes being “road legal”. Something to investigate in
the next few weeks.

Not sure whether yesterday’s snowfall will be the last of the season but it sure snowed and my bus
was quite a handful in the conditions. Another 4″ overnight to top it off and now a pretty couple of hours
before the big melt and then some projected 60’s in the forecast for the rest of the week.

The “trials land” is still too wet and soggy with the melting snow, but with temps on the rise I should be
able to get down there and take some pictures of suitable sections and practice areas in the coming
week. Bearing in mind this will be for beginners and novices so the ground doesn’t have to be too
difficult but we do need a good variation of terrain and typical sections. In a perfect world I would like to
have the last section at the Hollywood Bar where they have a piece of land that could be used with a
couple of loads of imported rock……… see Town Manager !

I have also seen some cracking areas in the Cortez limits while driving round in the school bus…….
not sure who owns the land but its a super piece of trials real estate. Usual premise…… don’t ask……
don’t get ….. and they can always say NO !

…….and then things changed… et tu Brute? Time litterally stopped, my Rolex perpetual wasn’t, it
became the Rolex petulant and went to sleep when I did !! ….. the high end shop where it was
purchased tell me it needs a clean at a mere $800 !!!!!!…….. sadly I’m not a watchmaker and my fingers
are too big so (time) to look at other methods of tracking the earth’s rotation.

My ex-aircrew Brietling works and is ultra clever with all the multi functions working through the single
crown, or not, as I discovered when I couldn’t move the hands….. all the digital functions work but I
can’t move the hands to set it. The Brietling was a near perfect watch but after setting up the Grading company I decided it was TOO expensive to use as a work watch in the Arizona dust and heat so it
(wound up) in the bedside drawer.

Next time piece was a very clever Citizen Eco Drive world timer with 100 years of knowledge as to
days in the month, leap years etc and an accuracy of better than 1 sec a month. It runs of “light” but
also having been put in the bedside drawer needed a couple of days in the sunlight to get the solar
cell charged. Fully charged I set it up and it runs but this time the “reset button” is stuck and I can’t set
the digital functions!! Nothing for it revert to the old faithful Seiko simple watch I bought decades ago
when I had to return my RAF Aircrew watch. A new battery and off it goes and everything resets and
still works. Well A deal is struck and the Rolex goes back as I need the money so over to Ebay and
see what is available at a reasonable price. My lucky day, and I win one last night which has all the
functions I want for less than a 1/4 of the cleaning price for the Rolex.

…. and with a press of a button all the digital info is gone

Rolex may have a good name but as a watch they are primitive compared to the modern day Jap
offerings, as a Rolex doesn’t even know how many days there are in a month or what month and year
it is ? However, while on Ebay another surprize as I see one of my “Ex-Yamahas” up for sale! This one
was the all alloy one I sold a couple of years ago and doesn’t look like its been ridden since the last
time I rebuilt it.

On Ebay right now, it was a VERY good bike

Yesterday was also a good day with the pool cue and we ventured over to Mancos and the Columbine
Bar for their Sunday tournament. Brenda started well beating all the local favorites while I lost my third
game to Lloyd  after a couple of goofey shots.  No matter, another win and now I’m playing Brenda for
3rd and 4th. She has the upper hand but elects to shoot the 8 clean and unfortunately it clips my ball
and goes in. So now I’m playing Lloyd again for either 3rd or 2nd. Lloyd elects not to break having won
the toss so I get the honor. Balls fly into pockets and I look in the rack and I can see there are three
solids. A quick look at the table and I’m nicely lined up for a red followed by a green………. so where is
the Black ?   …….. OK a BLACK ball Break which gives me the game and the house pot!

Now I’m playing for 1st and 2nd and it all goes my way and I win both games to finish a very pleasant

Time moves on, well in some cases! Time to start thinking gardening and yard clean up and then get
the Enfield monster out, with or without the mystery forks, and get some badly needed practice. Not so
much a trials rider, more a tank commander riding one of these.


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  • 3/16/2011 6:37 PM Paul Collins wrote:
    Hi Tony,

    I would be interested in signing up for your trials school (cost and dates permitting) on my Greeves. Cheers Paul
    Reply to this

  • 3/22/2011 3:14 PM Jimmy Allison wrote:
    Would like to do the school. See if you can schedule it when AHRMA doesn’t have a nearby mx as we’re still riding some of those also.
    Reply to this
  • 5/3/2011 6:16 PM shaun handley wrote:
    Tony remember. Me been hiding. On long island for the last 25 years sorry about Ted cell 631 523 7824
    Reply to this
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Here is an article I wrote last summer while in the throes of repairing two Ducati Elephants, trying
to plan a prospective Rally & Treasure Hunt, and finishing off the 2010 census. It also contained the
fun of our summer “Shade Garden Party” …… and then it zoomed off into the ether never to be seen
again! For whatever reason “it ” has come back…….. as I’m fresh out of ideas for another article here
it is…….. and then it rained!


The last phase of the Census now draws to a close, so I shall be out of work on a temporary basis
until the next fulfilling mission in the tapestry of life unfolds. Well it gives me a chance to finish off the
Elefants, complete the last parts on Richard’s Jumbo SWM and get the Rally wrapped up ready for
delivery in August.

I don’t know what it is about Travelocity Gnomes but every dealer, ebay seller, manufacturer or
members of the main organization all seem determined to NOT return ANY of my calls or emails! I
guess it must be a gnome thing. 3 questions asked on ebay and not a sniff of a reply. Well no
matter I’ll do it my way and call some gnome friends and see if they want a mountain vacation.

“hey TG fancy a trip to Colorado ?”  “Hmmm, thanks Tony I’ll ring Harry
and Uncle Tom Cobbly and All”

“Uncle Tom ?  are you coming to Dolores ?”

“Hi All Bike, don’t forget the Dolores River Rally!”

The rectifier has been fitted along with another 4 pin plug which I’m told is also a problem point and
the more wiring I do on these things the more confused I become as heavy gauge wire mates up
with very delicate flimsy bits ? Only need to put the wires back on the battery and then I’m complete
and if it doesn’t work then I’m at a total loss!

Today is party day in the Shade Garden so a bit of clean up after yesterday’s storm before the
hoards arrive and the crawdad man arrives with his 100 lbs of Colorado lobsters! Brenda has the
brisket on and fortunately I got the cushions into the dry before the storm which soaked everything
and put a big CNX on any lawn mowing activities.

All ready! the Hostess can relax

The lawn is mown, and the guests arrive and my “obscene” margarita glass ventures out once
more. No doubt the results will be similar to last year as it only gets to come out once a year.

The “Obscene Glass” is loaded!

The Crawdads are enormous and Donny soon has his boil on and they are a’cooking. Not only smell
good but they look like there is some meat on these boys.

Giant Crawdads (Co Lobsters) ready for their hot swim

The party is in full swing until 4 pm when the forecast first crash of thunder arrives sending campers
and party goers running for cover. The wet weather programme comes into play with pool and poker
and the “wise” had elected to set the food out inside so nothing was ruined.

A nice afternoon in the Shade Garden

“Honest, it was THIS big!”

“Not what I heard”

…….and then it rained

With the party and census just over, time to energize the Elefant. All the wires carefully routed and
connected, on with the key …….. NOTHING!! Not even an oil light. Well it seems,contrary to my learned
colleagues statement  “they are all the same” the 4 wires leading to the 4 pin plug that gives all the
trouble are not all the same! There are 3 red wires and one orange and although I have orange to
orange the other three are obviously incorrectly mated up. Clearly this IS the problem area as it was
working fine before  Shadetree did the bomb disposal trick and cut through the wires. From the
limited Ducati wiring diagram akin to the London Underground map, here are the directions…..

“Take the Orange to Charing X, then change to the Red for…..”

Two wires are HOT coming from the battery and the orange comes or goes to the ignition switch…..
they all go to the two main fuses……. and before you ask yes I have checked them. Now of course I
need to know which wires are hot. Moral……. never trust an EXPERT !

Tee- heee, He will never figure this out

Time to get my new circuit tester out again and probe the plug, but first I’ll try “Good Mechanic, Bad
Mechanic” on the Elefant and see if he knows…… after all they say an Elephant never forgets.

 OK, I’ll ask you one more time which of these red wires are HOT ?”


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Unbeknown to me the transformation had started from the age of around 6 and by 7, with one outing
around the cricket pitch on a Fannie B trials bike I was hooked. My bicycle had become noisey with
“fagg packets” shoved behind the brakes and flicking off the spokes to give that motorised noise and
a spare packet was always on hand as a replacement.

Hours of tromping through muddy  trials woods, the heat and the dust of summer grass tracks, the
long distance travelling in the back of Uncle Tom’s Racing Transporter to Brands Hatch and other
road race circuits were all preparing me for my introduction to the dreaded two wheel menace …. the
Motor Cycle !

After the circular tours on the Francis Barnett my desire and persistance was rewarded in the shape
of yet another Royal Mail cast off ……. the mighty 123cc rigid BSA 3 speed Bantam. All this for 5
pounds! ……. and at age 10 or 11 I still have to wait 5 years before I can legally be on the road. The
Bantam becomes a “woods machine” around the back of the house and I set up limited sections for
the gutless little beast with its road gearing. I get some of the basics ingrained and also have a grass tracking/speedway area where I can get some full lock power slides in when the grass is wet.

My first bike……. and it did 56 mph too!

With sixteen rapidly approaching the Bantam gets a huge makeover with a respray in blue, some
alloy guards and a new seat. Those nasty “L” plates are soon gone and with lots of summer farming
pocket money I’m in the need for speed!  This becomes an older Triumph Bonneville which turns out
to be a great leveller and on several occasions a near show stopper!

Like mine with the “joke” brakes

My Bonnie was cream and had apurple two tone tank, cream mudguards with a one inch purple stripe
up the middle. Bit of a pig to start but Dad was on hand to show how. Still have a couple of vivid
memories, the first being the brakes or lack of ! Classic T junction up ahead, downshifting from around
the ton brakes being applied, some retardation and then ……….. NOTHING!! …………… just a fading
sensation and realisation that YOU were not going to STOP.

Another one that stays in the memory banks was the night at the local village Saturday night dance. A
certain gorgeous young lady accepts the offer of a lift home on a fine and warm summer night and we
walk to the beast. I try to start her up, the bike that is, and all I get is a lot of chuff, chuffs and not much
action. Fiddle around with advance retard things and choke and with bike on center stand give it an
almighty wellie! CHUFF< CHUFF….. and with the kicker all the way down it returns the favor and hurls
me off into the parking lot.

A nicely restored model

It starts, and on she gets…….. this is nice!  Off we go and the route takes us through a series of S
bends by the village church and over a humped back bridge……. well this will be fun! Knowing the
brakes are crap it will be a lot of downshifting and fantastic noise on the overrun from the burgess
exhausts. Now I’m very familiar with these bends but my passenger is not schooled in body weight positioning and for every move I make she counteracts by leaning the other way. We come perilously
close to the Church’s flint walls and Geoff Duke is forced to back off and not ride it like you stole it!
Some time later she is deposited at her house with hair looking like she has been dragged though
the hedge backwards and giant streaks of eye liner and masscara all over her face from high speed
eye watering…….. and no doubt a little fear thrown in.

Some time later the Bonneville become a Triumph Bushman which was the early version of the
Mountain Cub which was sold here in the States. So with Road Racing cancelled my illogical mind is thinking the Triumph will be daily transport and evening fun and a weekend trials bike as it has a high
level exhaust and trials tires. Another 2 months and 2 trials later all thoughts of dual sport are out the
window and I get my cousin Tom’s 197cc Villiers engined 9E Scottish Greeves as he now has the

A poor choice !!

No more road bikes until 1966 when I’m out in Cyprus and decide that the Mediterranean is the
perfect place for 2 wheels. A visit to the Yamaha shop and a quick test ride on a 250 twin. This nearly
results in a near arse over header hi side when having accelerated like a rocket down a side street
on the test run someone steps out in front of me……… first experience of having the shifter and rear
brake on the OTHER SIDES !!!

Who put the shifter on the left ?

The Yam is now mine and a perfect tool for all my needs. First incident was with lady friend who
alights at our evening destination and promptly catches her panty hose/tights on the exhaust pipe.
Quite amazing how nylon burns going outwards in an ever increasing circle. On return to her house
her mother is in the kitchen and looks aghast at daughters shredded tights and suspects the worst !
As the bike is outside on the drive daughter shows mother how it happened, but having learnt her
lesson wisely (or so she thought) elects to step off on the other side. Surprize, surprize, there’s
another pipe just like it on that side too! …… but it was an excellent demonstration!!

Long straight pipe……   and there’s another “tights” burner on the other

The last of the Yamaha road bike incidents occurs when my good friend, Ron, manages to overdo the “grape” at a Turkish Kebab and he needs to go back to the Officer’s mess. We set off but Ron
somehow falls asleep up against me and as we set off across a set of traffic lights he falls off
backwards under the acceleration. As he departs his feet come straight upward from the passenger
pegs and go under my arms lifting me out of the saddle. So now in trials stance with elbows pressed
in to hold the flopping rag doll we cross the lights and come to a stop where Ron rolls in the road and
wakes up.

Well its trials bikes only from this point on until arriving in the Falklands after we had taken the Islands
back. With transportation at a premium I discover we have a collection of despatch rider’s Can-am Bombardiers and as we have no motor cycle mechanic I’m in there in a flash and make a good one
from the wrecks. They didn’t look very pretty but were just about bullet proof and handled extremely well
in all conditions with a great turn of speed. Too many incidents to mention here but they are all
catalogued in the 5 articles of the Falkland Memoires.

My Falkland’s transport and fun 

Next road bike comes when I get to the States and become single again. This is my first experience
with the Harley Davidson marque and all the mystique that goes with it. 10 years later I’m still not sure
that I understand it. This has to be the biggest con trick of all time! How can you build an ugly bike reminiscent of the 50’s, with evil handling, grossly uncomfortable seating, immensely heavy, and built
as an ergonomic slum ? Then as a stroke of master advertising genius having persuaded the “Harley wanabee” to part with around $25,000, you convince them that they need to dress up like something
out of “Pirates of the Carribean” to ride the thing!

Rodeo chaps and the I’ve been everywhere leather vest

My entry level Harley is the 1999 Cobalt blue (purple) FXR2 which does have a sprung frame, is one
of the few that will actually corner (well nearly) and has proper footrests and controls as well as the
ridiculous highway pegs which were quickly removed! It did have some beautiful double megaphone
pipes which sounded fantastic and reminded me of Uncle Tom’s racing G50’s and 7R’s.

A beautiful noise from the twin megaphones

As the 4 bedroomed house is now MINE I can park the bike in the long corridor without getting
permission from anyone and very soon I see a need for an “off road” machine to visit places a Harley
just won’t go.  Next into the corridor comes the KTM LC400 which is not really an Enduro but more
dual sport which it does very well. I even enter it in a dual sport 2 day and much to the surprize of the
other entrants elect to ride it TWO up! I finish the event but would have to say I wouldn’t do it again as
its a bit tough on the arms and body.

The first KTM

Action in the AZ mountains

The corridor is getting hard to walk down now as a modern new Gas Gas has joined the inventory but
my quest continues with something in the crotch rocket mode. The next toy arrives in the shape of the Triumph 955i Sprint. My Triumph has come a long way!

It’s a “looker” and has brakes too!

This bike is quite something, oodles of power,  comfortable, and no nasty vices. Only problem was
the clutch cable that broke, which of course is really annoying with a new bike as there is a starter
interlock so you are screwed once the engine stops. New cable replaced under warranty which lasts
about 150 miles and then breaks again!!  3rd cable fitted when I get a factory recall notice to tell me
the clutch cable might break !!!!

Being British and a very pretty blue it seemed to be a Police magnet and I got stopped twice, the first
by a motorcycle patrolman, who I think wanted to look at the bike, and wasn’t writing me a speeding
ticket. Second stop not quite so pleasant as this newly qualified DUI car man wants to test his new
found skills.

The Police magnet

Its the first day of AZ Bike Week and also the first day when temps will crest 100 for the season.
About 2100 I’m on my way home and I’m seeing all the law enforcement cars hidden in the bushes
lining the main roads.  Having stuck religiously to the speed limits I finally turn onto my road, I’m hot
so flick the visor up and have a quick squirt through the box but as I roll off at 70 I notice the blue flash
in the bushes…… sure enough out he comes in hot pursuit.  First thing he says is ” Take your helmet
and backpack off and go and stand over there”

As I comply with his wishes I realise my T shirt is not perhaps the best garment to be wearing for this encounter as it has two crotch rockets laid over in a corner with a play on words motif….. “My drinking
team has a Racing problem!” We now play all the roadside games and eventually as other blue and whites arrive we go for the blow up the breatherliser finale. Fortunately for me I’ve been told how to
cheat these things so, while I have been allowed to smoke I have been hyperventillating. The blowing
begins and I stop on his call. The look on his face was quite something…….. several shakes of the kit
……. more checking…… nothing! (tee hee)  now I’m told I will have to take a Taxi home as they have
ordered one! My house is less than 100 yards away !!!!

At some stage I’m back in my Harley dealership and see the latest model Deuce. The dealership has
really gone to town on this one with about 6K worth of goodies and extras. I have to say it does look
really nice. The Duece frame does not allow for footrests in the normal position and has these
dreadful forward controls but other than that I do like the overall look of the bike.

The Duece before the mods with shotgun pipes and snakeskin seat

I come back to the dealership about a week later and see a SOLD sticker on the bars! Wander off
fuming thinking I should have done it last time I was here. A few weeks later I’m back again for
something and there is the bike minus the sold sticker ? ……. seems the wannabee couldn’t get
finance and the deal fell through. Two hours later I’m trundling home on the NEW Deuce. Good
friend and trials riding companion, Jim Wagner, who is the top Harley tech tells me there are some
special deals on uprating the engine but staying under warranty. Jim does all the work himself, big
barrells and pistons, big mikuni, Baisley heads, Vance & Hines 2 into 1 exhaust and I have a rocket
ship of a Harley. Of course it still steers like a pig, still an ergonomic slum, uncomfortable, and evil handling…….. but it makes a lot of noise and goes well in a straight line!

It was ridden solo for a long time until Brenda came along when the seat was changed and the
backrest added.

All engine mods done, and now a seat and backrest for Brenda

Enjoying the freedom of off roading the KTM gets changed for another but this time the full blown
enduro, the 520EXC. The ridiculous rules of Arizona allow this machine to be road registered
despite a Federal sticker to say it DOES NOT conform to US standards. I have mine lowered, a
decent bash plate put on and a computer that gives me a speedo. A truly phenominal off road bike.

The best off road bike there is

Meanwhile in the Crotch Rocket department I’m back at the boy racer dealership and they have last
years and the year befores left over Kawasaki ZX12R’s. For some reason the 2003 models are
MORE expensive than the 2004 ?  I query this with boy salesman and he goes off to check. Comes
back and says the prices are correct so I hand him a crisp $100 bill as the good faith deposit and its

Mummy’s worst nightmare !

This beast is all black with gold wheels and really looks the part. 186 horses and around 200 mph
should you be so stupid. I take delivery the following day and its awful! Like a badly behaved dog on
a lead and not at all user friendly. The suspension is rock hard, which may be fine for 150+  but
doesn’t work in the normal 50-75 range. As I set about the rear spring I stumble on the problem as
the boy tech who did the pre delivery has the chain so tight that the spring can’t compress. I’m
amazed the chain didn’t snap. Performance wise, unreal, but not really a nice bike. I try a day on the
track with it ……. never again!

Fun, but not user friendly

About the same time I’ve been hankering after a Rothmans Honda and can’t find one so elect to
build one myself. I find a suitable machine in the form of an Erion Racing 929RR and this is gorgeous
in its untouched state as the owner has had everything show chromed and fitted special chrome
wheels and a nice exhaust.

It arrives, is duly stripped and all the panels and tank are sent off to my painter who has just finished
my two Rothman Honda trials bike shrouds. 2 months later all the bits are collected and the rebuild

The jig saw pieces come back from the painter…. wonder where they go ?

Well this is as good, and most likely better, than anything I could have bought. It looks fantastic,
its comfortable, a delight to ride, and very user friendly for a 150mph+ bike !! Perhaps my favorite all
round road bike.

My favorite road bike ever!

Bike week again and we take in the latest BMW. Most impressive and Brenda loves the rear end so
it joins the road division after floorboards, intercom and the Remus exhaust have been fitted. For a
bike weighing 850 lbs it is quite amazing and handles more like a crotch rocket than a heavyweight

All the luggage space she could ever want

…..and it motors and handles well too

With the sale of a piece of land I’m looking at the blue and silver single seater MV Augusta F4 1000.
This is just motorcycle art however you look at it and without doubt the finest machine I have ever
owned. Frightenly fast…… but beautifully engineered……. the noise from the 4 pipes under the seat
was truly orgasmic and as you went through 5000 rpm your mind was gone. I loved the “reminder”
sticker on the tank…….. “Do not exceed 9000 rpm while running in!!!!”  It would do over 100 in third on
the freeway ramp before you had to sit up, slow down, change up, and join the 70 mph traffic having
folded your little horns back into the helmet.

Insane and gorgeous

Finally the Deuce is exchanged for a Mk II Screamin Eagle VROD. More mods, intercom, seating,
backrest and floorboards for her and some performance pipes for me and it too joins the fleet. Not
bad, good performance, better handling, better suspension, poor range from the hidden tank, but
its still a Hardly Ableson.

The SE II with all Brenda’s rear end mods

A better set of pipes for the sewing machine

Happy motoring

……… and then the recession arrives and one by one the fleet disappears to put food on the table.


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